The LaboraSTORY, is a collaborative media production mentor program and recording studio built in a local North Carolina community dedicated to producing student PSAs. Under the leadership of Youth Reporting Director Kamaya Truitt, students created two PSAs surrounding the topics of teen mental health, and comprehensive sexual education, along with a community-focused action plan for each PSA. The students then presented the action plans to their school community to facilitate curriculum adjustments, student advisory boards, and awareness about important issues facing young people in the 2022-2023 school year.
The LaboraSTORY: Activities & Outputs
With the help of the Next Gen Public Media Accelerator, WUNC piloted The LaboraSTORY. We created a basic media production studio at Southeast Raleigh YMCA for nine students to work collaboratively on the production of two student-focused PSAs.
The final versions of the student’s audio PSAs are currently airing on various WUNC podcasts. The PSAs have reached over 5,000 people and most recently aired on the season two premiere episode of WUNC’s podcast CREEP. So far, they have reached over 600 people from the first episode alone. The video PSAs are currently being condensed into smaller segments for multi-platform use.
The LaboraSTORY gave WUNC an opportunity to take our work with young people to the next level by helping youth participants advocate for and facilitate change in their community. In addition to working with WUNC’s staff to create rich audio-centered PSAs, student participants were guided through the process of highlighting a problem, creating awareness around the problem, and attempting to address the problem with local stakeholders.
By leading these issue-based conversations with adult leaders and creating intergenerational dialogues, teenage participants of The LaboraSTORY were able to subvert the traditional narrative surrounding who can be a “student” and who can be an “expert.” The students advocated for themselves and pitched a pilot program, taking into consideration the concerns and parameters expressed by school administration after their initial action plan presentation. At the end of the semester, students will meet with school administrators to talk through the positives and negatives of the pilot program.
Action items piloted by the students included:
- Creating a diverse and inclusive sexual education curriculum
- Inviting local LGBTQ+ organizations to host information and dialogue sessions after school
- Using “You Are Not Alone” message board on social media to collect and answer questions about mental health
- Partnering with local affordable counseling group, Aspire, to host “Peer Counselor” training for students
- Hosting information sessions on mental health topics like maintaining a healthy mental space, coping strategies, and resources for teens struggling with their mental health.
- Developing a 24/7 school mental health hotline
Student participants are currently working with two local community organizations (outside of the school) to facilitate discussions, training sessions, and workshops that they hope will lead to change in their community. Currently, staff partners are working to address the student concerns (within the school), while also staying within the parameters of school board rules. Students and staff are partnering on an Instagram rollout for the teen mental health PSA, as a way to spread the word and inform a larger audience about the issue and associated action plan.
In order to best engage with the entire southeast Raleigh community, we strategically placed the LaboraSTORY studio at the Southeast Raleigh YMCA, because of its close proximity to Southeast Raleigh Magnet High, Southeast Raleigh Elementary, and the Beacon Ridge affordable housing community. The LaboraSTORY is currently in its second iteration at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High. Students in this iteration of the program will be focusing on implementing the action plans from last semester and launching new PSAs around cyberstalking/bullying, colorism, and increasing access of menstruation materials for non-binary students. Students from the high school have also discussed starting a community garden PSA series with some of the community members from the Beacon Ridge neighborhood, in an effort to shine a light on the fresh food access in the southeast Raleigh community. In the spring of 2023, I am hoping to launch LaboraSTORY Jr. with a group of 4th and 5th graders from Southeast Raleigh Elementary school.
Long term, I would like to see the LaboraSTORY become a year-long community engagement and advocacy club within all Wake and Durham county schools, that works to create PSAs and action plans that better individual schools and communities. I would like to get buy-in from various organizations in the community so that students don’t have to wait on the school board or school administration to implement changes.
WUNC’s Youth Reporting Institute is a cornerstone of the station’s education coverage and provides a vital connection to the community at large. We recognize the benefit of highlighting the voices of young people, and after a decade of hosting the Youth Reporting Institute, we’ve developed an effective model for telling their stories. In 5 years, the LaboraSTORY should be a core part of this model and one of the many pipelines WUNC has created from the community to the station.
Construction and support of The LaboraSTORY is made possible with support from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as part of the Next Gen Public Media Accelerator Program.